Park back on top

Percy Park's Ash Smith in action against Wheatley Hills.
Percy Park's Ash Smith in action against Wheatley Hills.
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AN EMPHATIC first half performance laid the ground work for a bonus point win which took Park back to the top of the league ahead of West Hartlepool.

Park are top due to their superior points difference after West ground out an away win at Pontefract, missing out on an extra bonus point.

Conditions at Preston Avenue were just about perfect for rugby with firm ground under foot and no wind. Both sides wanted to play rugby and royally entertained the crowd with a ten try game.

It was the visitors who controlled the first five minutes of the game, but Park scored through Craig Fidler on six minutes with their first real spell of possession.

Craig Firth took the ball deep into the visitors half, a switch with wing Howard Stock kept play going, and as the ball was spun out wide from a ruck, it was lock Fidler who took the ball over the line unopposed to score, with Ash Smith converting.

Hills had the chance to open their account when Park strayed offside, but Guy Townsley was off target with the penalty.

The visitors did level the scores on 18 minutes when the ball was driven through the middle of a ruck by Byron Elliot and the Wheatley Hills rangy open side off loaded to Mikey Hayward to score with Townsley kicking the conversion.

Two minutes later Park re-took the lead again from a loose ball which involved Firth and Stock before the ball found full back Smith. He danced through a gap then powered his way through two defenders to score under the posts.

Smith then stretched the lead for Park with a penalty three minutes later.

Wheatley Hills came straight back and the visiting supporters thought they had scored when the ball appeared to be driven close to the try line, but referee Dave Charlton had signalled a penalty to Park.

With the game edging closer to half time Ali Blair scored for Park after retrieving a mis-guided clearance kick by Hills.

The ball was moved to Stock on the right wing, then back inside to Martin Shaw and John Scott before Blair took the ball on once again to score under the posts for a seven pointer.

With time almost up in the half, Park’s next attack saw them awarded a penalty. They elected for a kick to the corner for the line out in the Wheatley Hills 22.

The line out was won cleanly and driven to the try line, the ball was recycled through several phases before fly half Martin Shaw drove over for the score, and Percy Park led 29-7.

Wheatley Hills kicked off the second half and put Park under severe pressure close to the line on several occasions.

Stout defence kept the Yorkshire side at bay, but on 53 minutes Andy Dunn was yellow carded for slowing up play on a Hills attack near the line. The scrum was the obvious choice, the ball was fed out and Byron Elliot scored and the try was converted.

Wheatley Hills continued to press, and their over eagerness gave Park a penalty on their own 22.

Hind-sight is a wonderful thing, but the next few minutes had Park supporters with their heads in their hands. Park opted for a scrum despite being a man down in the pack and no hooker. Hills took the ball against the head which led to a try by Alex Ogilvey which Townsley converted and Wheatley Hills were back in contention at 29-21.

Park kicked a penalty to the corner for a line out. The ball was won and the drive moved play close to the visitor’s line, before being spun out to Shaw who offloaded to David Griffiths who crashed through the defence to score under the post. Smith kicked the easy conversion.

Percy Park were awarded a scrum on half way, James Ponton picked up and passed to John Scott who made a break down the right.

Smith then powered up the wing and drew two players to him before off loading inside to Stock in support. The Park wing still had to beat two defenders close to the line before scoring.

With the game now into injury time and Park waiting for the final whistle, Wheatley Hills launched another attack. A lovely chip through found wing Ryan Richardson in space, who turned on the after burners and raced for the line to score, which Hayward converted.

Next week, Park’s 1st XV travel to Cleckheaton, looking to avenge the defeat earlier in the season.

The Lions play Alnwick II in the cup, the Marauders travel to Border Park for their cup semi final.

For those supporters who cannot travel there is a great game in store with the veterans, Percy Park Penguins taking on Seghill Deputies for a place in the final of the Northumberland No 5 Cup.